The Cody School Board is not done talking about how to recognize graduates enlisting in the armed forces, but trustees said Tuesday night that while they were generally pleased with how it was handled by the school for Saturday’s graduation, they want to avoid the confusion that led to false information being spread on social media.
“There is no current policy on graduation attire. However, in an effort to prevent this situation from occurring in the future, the board will clarify expectations of permitted graduation attire going forward,” trustees wrote in a statement. “The Park County School District No. 6 Board of Trustees, administration, teachers and employees are all very supportive of our military community and service men and women. This support is evident throughout the year in a variety of the functions that occur within our schools, including graduation.”
Trustees talked at length about the issue at Tuesday night’s work session and multiple trustees suggested a policy that would standardize how to best recognize those enlisting, such as adding a cord as with the National Honors Society.
Chair Jenni Rosencranse also wanted more insight from fellow trustees on how best to get ahead of viral issues such as the one that erupted on the Cody Area Classifieds Facebook page Sunday. In fewer than 40 minutes, there were 107 comments on the initial post claiming a student was not allowed to wear a sash.
“When things like this happen, how do we gather to get the info and put it out quickly?” she asked. “Had we been able to get info out we know now, we could have shut it down much faster. I think that would be a benefit to the district, staff, students and parents. It got really ugly, really fast.”
The uproar started when someone posted that three CHS graduates were not allowed to wear military sashes and were told they would not be able to walk at graduation if they did.
Principal Jeremiah Johnston recounted the events leading up to graduation for the school board, mentioning that only one student had asked about wearing a U.S. Navy sash, but after receiving diplomas at least two students were wearing them.
Initially, the student was told that he could not wear anything other than the traditional graduation attire selected. However, in discussing the issue with his parents and Johnston, together they came up with a plan: the graduate would wear the military sash under the traditional sash and once he received his diploma, he would replace the traditional sash with the military sash signifying his future service.
“Both of his parents thought it was a good idea,” Johnston said.
He said the problem with the quick fix they settled on for the future is that not all branches send sashes.
Rosencranse mentioned the family of the grad who made the request had offered to come to the meeting to voice their support for the compromise plan.
Johnston said it was the first time a student had asked about a military sash, but that most years people have other requests that are generally denied due to the administration’s desire for a traditional-looking ceremony.
This year the administration did allow students to decorate their caps and multiple trustees spoke of how nice the ceremony was as all attended.
“The board is very proud of all of our graduates and was honored to participate in the Heart Mountain Academy and Cody High School graduation ceremonies to celebrate all of their accomplishments,” trustees said. “The board wishes our graduates all the best in their futures.”
Multiple trustees suggested adopting cords, which Johnston said would be preferable as it would be school controlled and would prevent some students from being recognized but not all who enlisted. However, Johnston said, making an exception for military enlistees at graduation would lead to requests from other groups.
“Just be prepared for the continual question,” he said.
Vice chair Brandi Nelson disagreed with the idea that they would have to make exceptions for other groups in the future.
“If we say military only we don’t have to open it to anybody else,” she said.
“If we do that we need to have a policy,” Rosencranse responded.